Jodee and Steve Watelet pose for a portrait in their home in Mesquite, Nev., on Friday, May 20, 2022. / Photo by Miranda Alam for Voice of San Diego
Jodee and Steve Watelet pose for a portrait in their home in Mesquite, Nev., on Friday, May 20, 2022. Their son took his own life in 2020. He was in the Navy. / Photo by Miranda Alam for Voice of San Diego

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The suicide crisis among veterans has been well documented. But another dark phenomenon exists just beneath the surface in San Diego and across the country: high suicide rates among young men serving active duty. 

A new analysis by Voice of San Diego shows young troops, 25 and under, are nearly twice as likely to die by suicide as their civilian peers. 

These young men, by and large, have not seen combat. In many cases, they take their own lives on military bases, where they are surrounded by people who understand what it’s like to be in the military and where they are supposed to have direct access to services. 

Military leaders seem confounded by the rise. Up until the early 2000’s, suicide rates in the military were far below civilian rates. Military leaders said their recruits were more fit, mentally and physically, than the population at large. But for the past 20 years the numbers have been sharply increasing – so much so that the age and gender-adjusted suicide rate for the entire military has been higher than among civilians. 

Even after pouring hundreds of millions of dollars into mental health programs and attempting to encourage troops to seek mental health support, the problem has not improved. 

“Arguably, the most significant challenge is a cultural challenge,” one expert said. “As a warrior culture, it’s about selfless sacrifice and personal courage – the team being more important than the individual. But if you feel like you can’t hold up your end of the bargain or feel like you’re the weakest link in the chain, it amplifies feelings of failure and shame.”

Click here to read the story in its entirety. 

Hello From a New Citizens Initiative 

Voice’s main politics nerds learned last week that former San Diego Mayor Kevin Faluconer is not just playing pundit on KUSI these days. He’s also making calls to gauge support for a new citizens initiative he wants to get on the ballot in November 2024. 

We are not entirely sure what the measure will be, but it’s likely that it would fall along the lines of one voters in Sacramento will consider, which would make it illegal for unsheltered residents to camp on the street once there are enough city shelters and safe camping options. 

Scott Lewis and Andrew Keatts dig into what we know in the latest Politics Report. And they explain why this could be Falconer’s sharpest dig back to Mayor Todd Gloria. 

Also, buckle up because SANDAG’s board is well positioned to continue fighting well into the future over whether the region should charge drivers for every mile they drive. 

That’s all in the Politics Report, a weekly roundup of politics and policy news exclusively available to Voice members. Support our work here. 

Already a member? Read the Politics Report here. 

Summertime Blues, Meet Summertime News

The doldrums of summer are upon us. And the local news cycle that propels the lives of us journalist folk is decelerating — for now.

It’s a normal part of nature, like seasonal drought or bear attacks.

To combat these summertime blues, our latest podcast episode is chocked full of summertime news. We discussed fun, forward-looking stories to watch for the rest of the year, such as global science initiatives, lowrider culture and commercial real estate.

Hear the full show here or wherever you cast pods.

In Other News 

  • Christopher Longhurst, chief medical officer at UC San Diego Health, shared Friday that COVID-19 viral loads in wastewater, cases and hospitalizations were all trending up as we see a “BA.5 surge-on-surge effect.” The good news, he added, is that very few patients are requiring ICU care. 
  • Lewis and Keatts joined KPBS for a Roundtable discussion on local sports, construction at the Snapdragon stadium in Mission Valley and more. 
  • The Union-Tribune profiled the newest leader of the city’s Community Planners Committee Andrea Schlageter. She is the youngest person to lead the group, which has been mostly led by older White men in the past. The committee makes recommendations to the City Council and mayor about development regulations, housing policies and more.  

The Morning Report was written by Will Huntsberry, Nate John and Andrea Lopez-Villafaña.

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